Tuesday, August 19, 2008

No reason to fear black workers or Barack Obama

If you are in St. Louis this week, keep your eyes open for the above logo or for the word TEAMSTERS emblazoned on the chests, backs or ballcaps of black folks. The Teamsters National Black Caucus just rolled into town for their annual national conference.

I attended the opening of their general session this morning. It was highly powerful. These are my people: working people with the sense of struggle, but also the belief that working people have earned entitlements, too - no need to take vows of poverty or abstinence just because you work for a living.

Obama activists will remember that the Teamsters were the first major labor muscle to come out for Obama for president. I can promise you the black caucus had a great deal to do with that early and strong endorsement. Buy one of these brothers or sisters a drink if you see them out about town this week.

This morning, among many other messages to the grass-roots, Teamsters leaders encouraged their business agents and rank-and-file to go back home at the end of the week, all fired up from the national conference, and organize for the union movement and for Obama.

Organizing for the Teamsters? That could be filed under "just business," for a labor conference. Sure. But organize for Obama?- (using independent operating funds, that is: just a shout out to the federal investigators reading this blog because we are following Joe Mokwa's woes).

But organizing for Obama? By going out into unfamiliar churches? That's original leadership. And that advice was offered twice this morning, by black labor leaders speaking to an almost all-black audience. The speakers were able to remind their Teamsters brothers and sisters, in the most abrupt shorthand, that white candidates and their surrogates regularly come into black churches to ask for the black vote. The message, this morning, was that it's time for working black people to invite themselves into some unfamiliar churches and introduce themselves.

"We need to go out and show America that we are working people, too, and to let them know there is no reason to be afraid of us or Barack Obama," one black Teamsters leader said.

I'll get the quotes exact and type in the names of the speakers on http://www.stlamerican.com/ this afternoon and in Thursday's St. Louis American.

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